Jane Buckingham, author and founder of Trendera is a fantastic speaker; I have revisited many of the ideas she presented at a conference I attended nearly 2 years ago and there is one I come back to time and time again. This is the one I share most often too: the suggestion that we aspire to live a meaningful life in lieu of the more common edict to just ‘be happy’. I am a Gen X’er and while I don’t consider myself to be a complete and total helicopter parent, I have been guilty of wanting my children to ‘be happy’. Heck, how many times have I wanted that for myself?! And what is wrong with that? Nothing at first glance, yet upon closer examination, it is a vague and nebulous mandate with a host of unintended consequences.
‘ I just want you to be happy.’ is unrealistic and as frustrating as trying to spear a tapioca ball in a serving of boba. It also does not encourage resilience or ‘grit’; the newly touted ingredients necessary for success. When I examine my own life with the ‘just be happy’ lens; it occurs to me immediately how boring my life would have been and not to mention, bland. I realize that I am messing with a core value and I do not take on the ‘pursuit of happiness’ lightly.
The minute Jane shared her suggestion to inspire in our children to live lives of meaning, I was inspired. Meaningful lives are rich and textured; there is spontaneity and serendipity when done right. Looking back on my life choices, I realize that I know this firsthand. My curiosity and love of adventure have prevented me from a consistently happy life. I have tried it at times, and it is not my thing. For me, ‘just being happy’ is difficult; I can easily get sidetracked into someone else’s definition of happiness. Luckily, I have often made life choices because I felt the need to challenge myself or honor a difficult truth. As a result, I am familiar with deep joy and blissful stretches of peace and wonder. I have also been in the ring with blistering pain and gut-wrenching sorrow, the kind that leaves an ache so cellular you are convinced it is a part of you that is never going away.
Meaningful lives are messy and require an unrelenting honesty. Meaningful lives ask us to engage with others, the other and offer no guarantees. This is where you are always learning, always on the edge of making a mistake, or even worse-FAILURE. Yes, it gets scary out here and that is where the spontaneity and serendipity swoop in to remind you not to take it all so seriously.
I began working with creative entrepreneurs because I believe that people can build lives and support themselves doing work they love. I want to support more creativity, art, and goodness in the world. This is me living my meaningful life. Let me know if you would like to talk about how to pursue your version of a meaningful life.